Preparing for the Worst

Preparing for the Worst

Living in the Deep South we have always had to be aware of the potential for hurricanes and tropical storms.

I have very vivid memories of the floods of 1994. I remember the eerie silence when Interstate 75 was shut down after a portion of the super highway collapsed. They closed the Macon airport and cancelled all UPS and Fed-Ex shipments. I poured 11 semen shipments down the drain and worried how we would be able to receive our medication shipments. I also remember the helicopters hovering overhead; you knew this was really serious. In the weeks and months that followed we faced numerous challenges trying to get to our patients on farm calls as many of the roads and bridges that we normally traveled had been damaged by the flooding.

The year before we had a severe ice storm in middle Georgia with wide spread power outages. It sounds really romantic to sleep by a fireplace but the truth is one side is cold, the other is hot and the floor is hard. We struggled to care for the horses as water on the farm comes from one of two wells. With no electricity we had no water. We loaded up large barrels, troughs, buckets, any vessel we had to haul water to the 50 horses on the farm. With no electricity we had no lights; it’s hard to clean stalls in the dark. I gained a new respect for portable generators and envied those who had them in place.

I used to think that tornadoes were only a problem in Oklahoma  but the past few years have shown me that we are all vulnerable. On Mother’s Day of 2008 a powerful tornado blasted through Roberta, Macon and Milledgeville. Many farms were damaged and horses were severely injured. One of the questions I always get is, “Should I put my horse in the barn if a storm is coming?” I don’t have a good answer. The truth is a sturdy barn will help protect horses from flying debris that acts like shrapnel but in the case of a powerful tornado the barn and everything in it may be completely demolished.

In many ways a hurricane gives us time to prepare. We can move horses out of the path of the storm. We can move to higher ground if flooding is expected. A tornado or ice storm doesn’t give us the advance warning.

There are some things that we can all do to better prepare ourselves in case the worst happens. We all need a plan; Where will we go? How will we move the horses? How much grain and hay should I take? What route would I take? Do I live in a flood plain?

We also need some tools to help us. Horses need to be identified if the worst is coming your way. A simple can of spray paint would allow you to paint your phone number on the horse. Having your truck and trailer ready to go and your horse trained to load, day or night are good starts. A portable generator for the farm would get you the needed electricity for the essentials.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has compiled some great materials to help you prepare. I found the article “Saving the Whole Family” to be very helpful. I have included some highlights of this paper but you can view this article by clicking here.

Do Not Wait Until It Is Too Late

Countless times people have been told to leave their homes for a “short time,” only to find that they cannot return for days or weeks. Even disasters like gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you from tending to your animals for extended periods of time. To prevent situations such as these take your animals with you.

It is best to be overly cautious during a disaster warning. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly is the best way to keep you and your family, including your animals, out of danger.

  • Familiarize yourself with each type of disaster that could affect your area, not forgetting a hazardous materials spill.
  • Be prepared for the possible disruption of services for extended periods of time, including electric, phone, and local food and water sources.
  • Having a plan in place and practicing the plan prior to a disaster will help you accomplish a successful evacuation and maintain the safety of your animals.

Equine Identification

Having identification on your animals may help reunite you with your animal(s) in the event that you are separated. Identification should provide your name, home address, a phone number where you can be reached, and an out-of-state phone number of someone with whom you will be in contact during or soon after the disaster/evacuation. Examples of some forms of identification are listed below.

  • microchip*
  • tattoo
  • halter tag
  • neck collars
  • brand
  • mane clip
  • luggage tag braided into tail or mane
  • clipper-shaved information in the animals’ hair
  • livestock marking crayon, non-toxic, non-watersoluble spray paint, or non-water-soluble markers to write on the animals’ side
    permanent marker to mark hooves
  • neck chain

* A small device about the size of a grain of rice, inserted by a veterinarian. IMPORTANT: Make sure the microchip is registered with a national pet recovery database and that your contact information is current.

Equine Evacuation

Equine evacuation can be challenging:

  • Develop an evacuation plan and make sure that animals are familiar with being loaded onto a trailer.
  • Premises with facilities that are specifically designed to load and handle livestock willbe much more successful in evacuating and relocating livestock.
  • Locate and prearrange an evacuation site for your animals outside your immediate area.

Possible sites include:

  • veterinary or land grant colleges
  • racetracks
  • show grounds
  • pastures
  • stables
  • fairgrounds
  • equestrian centers
  • livestock corrals
  • stockyards or auction facilities
  • other boarding facilities

If you do not have enough trailers to transport all of your animals to an evacuation site quickly, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers, or other transportation providers to establish a network of available and reliable resources that will provide transportation in the event of a disaster.

List of Important Emergency Contacts

Prepare this list now before a disaster strikes. Include addresses and 24-hour contact numbers, if available. These contacts can be used by rescue personnel responding to a disaster affecting your animals or by you during a disaster or an evacuation. Keep one copy near your telephone and one copy in your animal evacuation kit.

Evacuation Essentials

Equine Evacuation Kit Equine First Aid Kit

  • 7-10 day supply of feed, supplements, and water
  • Bandannas (to use as blindfolds)
  • Batteries (flashlight, radio)
  • Blankets
  • Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership
  • Duct tape
  • Emergency contact list
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Fly spray
  • Grooming brushes
  • Heavy gloves (leather)
  • Hoof knife
  • Hoof nippers
  • Hoof pick
  • Hoof rasp
  • Instructions
  • Diet: record the diet for your animals.
  • Medications: record the dose and frequency for each medication. Provide veterinary and pharmacy contact information for refills.
  • Knife (sharp, all-purpose)
  • Leg wraps and leg quilts
  • Maps of local area and alternate evacuation routes (in case of road closures)
  • Non-nylon halters and leads (leather/cotton)
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic trash cans with lids (can be used to store water)
  • Radio (solar and battery operated)
  • Rope or lariat
  • Shovel
  • Tarpaulins
  • Trash bags
  • Twitch
  • Water buckets
  • Wire cutters

An evacuation order has been issued now what do you do?

Evacuate your family, including your animals, as early as possible. By leaving early, you will decrease the chance of becoming victims of the disaster.

  • Bring your dogs, cats, and other small animals indoors.
  • Make sure all animals have some form of identification securely fastened to them (or their cage, in the case of smaller, caged pets). The utilization of permanent identification is encouraged.
  • Place all small pets, including cats and small dogs, inside individual transportable carriers. When stressed, animals that normally get along may become aggressive towards each other.
  • Secure leashes on all large dogs.
  • Load your larger animal cages/carriers into your vehicle. These will serve as temporary housing for your animals if needed.
  • Load the animal evacuation kit and supplies into your vehicle.
  • Call your prearranged animal evacuation site to confirm availability of space.
  • Implement your equine/livestock evacuation plan.
  • If evacuation of horses is impossible, relocate them to the safest place possible based on the type of imminent disaster and your environment, realizing that the situation could be life threatening.
  • Make sure that they have access to hay or an appropriate and safe free-choice food source, clean water, and the safest living area possible including high ground above flood levels.
  • Do not rely on automatic watering systems, because power may be lost.
  • The decision to leave your horses/livestock in the field or in the barn should be based on the risks of injury resulting from the disaster as well as from the horse’s immediate environment during that disaster.
  • Factors to consider include the stability of the barn, the risk of flooding, and the amount of trees and debris in the fields.
  • If time permits, secure or remove all outdoor objects that may turn into dangerous flying debris.